REPOST: what real choice would look like

From February 2011. The choice debate is framed within a very narrow band where the choices are almost useless.  Choice means a private school voucher or stay in a public school, perhaps a failing one, it increases privatization and allows takeover of public resources. That's it.  Do you want war in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Is that a real choice?

How about these choices:
  • Schools that ask families in their districts what learning services they need and want?
  • What about all the families who want more classes and weekend classes?  
  • What about parents, in the same district, who just want 2-3 classes and the rest homeschool?
  • What about parents who want better food? Can they work directly with their school to improve food? Can schools get gardens started? 
  • What about no tests unless the family chooses to take the test?
  • How about a lot of programs for parents that explain choices families can make for their child's education: how to prepare for college, etc.
  • What about families who need before and/or afterschool care and want good programs for that?
  • What about kids who can't afford a piano and want lessons which, of course, would be educational but are not in the curriculum? Can schools get several pianos and even more keyboards? Can they run a loaner program?
  • How about multi-age programs that offer broad social experiences?
  • How about lots of field trips that parents can choose to attend or not?
  •  What about drop-outs who hate school and want to work or start a business?  Where is the startup incubator with teen mentoring?  
  • How about choices that allow families to choose classes their kids need for career pr
  • Why can't they just attend and try things and make mistakes without penalty while they find out what they enjoy?  
  • What about having different texts and approaches to the same material?  Homeschoolers can and do adjust to a child's needs but schools cannot because pouring everyone into the same mold is an endless task.  
  • How about 1/3 (or all) of every schedule has real electives -- not the assigned ones but real electives. How about a choice for a 2/3 schedule of classes? Or just one class? 
  • How about a choice to take specific day off, say Wednesday because that's your Dad's only day off? 
  • How about a school database and support for carpooling and resource sharing? 
  • How about purchasing art materials at a discount with an art club?
We need choice to drive the system, we need families and children making a whole lot of choices all along the way to maximize the quality and target resources most effectively. And real choices for real families could start right within the schools we already have. Most kids never get to choose much of anything at all. Sometimes there is a tightly-controlled elective choice that isn't really a choice either as for most kids, the classes are filled so quick or there are schedule conflicts that make it impossible. The one fake choice is just a throwaway. We have a top-down, standardized, factory manufacturing approach to education and working hard to get the factory in tip-top shape will not provide what families need and want.

Compulsory attendance mandates the number of days, the number of hours, the curriculum, and the everything else so that there is absolutely no customization whatsoever or money doesn't flow. This structure has guided the money along upward paths that include wider and wider circles of bureaucrats and education experts in remote areas. The focus by schools is up: toward the city, state and Federal authorities who choose and mandate and centralize the income stream and then pour it all back down, a form of trickle down.

There is absolutely no focus on families and their children, other than policing them if they challenge the income stream. Families provide the money and the children and then are told to get out of the way: experts are in charge. Compulsory attendance gave the schools a police tool which is a mechanism to resist pushback from the very people they should be serving; it is a relic and with the growing corporate takeover of government, the ill effects of mass schooling in citizens is being felt for what it is: acculturation to hierarchy and passive acceptance of authoritarian structures.

Schools could be run as a service for families.  Families getting the right to homeschool is a first step. The next step is moving toward all families getting a substantial voice in a service that should be run for the families.

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